1Q84 BY HARUKI MURAKAMI
finished reading this book last night, been reading for two to three hours every night this whole week and managed to get through 900+ pages; i last read this two years ago, except the version i had was only volume one and two, and by the time volume three came out a year later i had forgotten most of what had happened; this is stacey’s book and she gave it to me right before she left
don’t think i felt like this book tied up a lot of the loose ends, there were several things that were left unanswered, not only because he intended to i think, but because it’s a massive work. towards the end it got draggy and i feel like whole chapters could have been cut out, they dragged too long. fuka eri was an interesting character but again in volume three she disappeared, without resolution. several times i would read sentences aloud and say what the fuck, maybe it’s the english translation, but just really bizarre sentences/ways of describing people. a lot of really weird shit happens, like Aomame getting pregnant without having sex; and volume two ending with her maybe killing herself?? and ppl getting murdered, i really hate murders. this book felt a lot like out by natsuo kirino, really dark at some points. also never really noticed how bags/products/clothes would be described with brands, like instead of saying ‘duffle bag’ he’ll write ‘duffle bag with nike logo tick’. seemed weird or out of place to me. i felt like it dragged out the meeting of Aomame and Tengo. ben says this is his favourite murakami but couldn’t remember why; i think it’s because of the way it ends, after 900+ pages of both Tengo and Aomame longing to see each other again they finally do, and it feels like a gift, to have found each other at last and to be together in the same place, and to mean as much to each other. like us. i was excited to be done with this book so i could read something else
finished: 18th october 2014
THE PRIVATE LIFE OF TREES BY ALEJANDRO ZAMBRA
i finished reading a book…! for the first time in ages…! i finished reading this on the plane from singapore back to london, i liked his first novel (bonsai) a lot and think i expected this to be as neatly wrapped as that. it was easy to read and i admired the way his sentences turned, i think, without tripping over themselves, quickly sketching out the plot/background in a few sentences, which i think isn’t easy to do. for instance, “when they got married, they were ready to fulfill the conventions of a happy life. they had decided to put their differences on hold, for a time, as if they were really a couple and not just a pale idea that took on form despite the bad omens.” really like that he moves on from that, and that after introducing fact abt differences + bad omens he does not elaborate on what these are, which i think requires a lot of restraint (knowing when to stop)
other parts/sentences that i liked
"sometimes the dawn found him juggling convoluted endings for his novel, which was clearly not a novel, but rather a book of fragments, or annotations. he didn’t want, really, to write a novel, he simply wanted to create a coherent place to pile up memories. he wanted to put his memories into a bag and carry them until the weight destroyed his back"
"in the artificial light of the present, his life with karla appears to him like a cloud, like a lagoon. he thinks of her as a stopping-place, countryside contemplated from the window of a slow-moving train."
"karla’s advantage was that she didn’t have a family; julian’s disadvantage was that he not only had a father and a mother and a sister, but also a confusing variety of grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and even nephews. karla offered him a perfect place to insulate himself from the past. there was nothing in julian’s part from which to flee, but that was exactly what he was escaping: from mediocrity, from innumerable hours wasted in nobody’s company.”
"he doesn’t understand; she knows he doesn’t understand, and it’s better that way."
"it isn’t the first time fernando has felt what he feels now, as daniela arrives at his house: a happiness that borders on completeness, that is almost absolute, but that nevertheless lays bare its incompleteness, a flaw that spoils the image."
"she can’t deny that she enjoys the solitude more and more; the weeks with ernesto, on the other hand, seem obstructed, rough. it’s not violence, not even weariness. it’s a kind of flaw, a wash someone poured over the scene where ernesto and daniela pose with their faces to posterity. she knows that very soon ernesto won’t come back. she imagines herself disconcerted, then furious, and finally invaded by a decisive calm. it’s all right, there was no commitment, as it should be: one loves in order to stop loving, and one stops loving in order to start loving others, or to end up alone, for a while or forever. that is the law. the only law."
finished: 18th september 2014
NEVER LET ME GO BY KAZUO ISHIGURO
also writing about this only now when i had finished it ages ago in late april or early may, i read this once when i was eighteen or nineteen i think and borrowed it from a classmate because i remembered it being an effortless read
the one thing i remembered thinking while reading this again was how, when i first read it, i feel like i didn’t quite understand the implications of certain things within relationships, or maybe now that i am older and have “experienced more” i feel better able to understand certain things. so i guess the main premise of this book is how these children (& later adults) were all created to be organ donors, and are clones in some sense. which isn’t obvious at first, because they don’t think of themselves that way. and so [bla bla] Kathy and Tommy fall in love/realize that they love each other and then become aware of a rumour going around that the people from their school are special, and that it is possible to appeal for a deferral of their donations, if they can prove that they are in love. and Kathy or Tommy say something like, i know it’s only one or two years, and even though that might not be enough that’s better than nothing and those two years we’ll have together will be so beautiful
and like, i get that now i guess, so much more than i did before, how you can wish for even just a single year of being together with the person you love most, and having all that time to be with that person, even if you know that it’ll only be for a year, and that once that’s over you’ll never get to have that again
finished ~ sometime in april
BARK BY LORRIE MOORE
haven’t finished a whole book in months, this book belongs to james and he brought it over from sydney because we were talking about it earlier in one of our emails. i finished most of this in beijing and then finished the rest of it on the plane back to london from barcelona. felt like i enjoyed reading this, or that there were tiny nuggets of important things buried within longer less-moving paragraphs
also something about the disappointment & loneliness that comes with it, with everyone else you meet and the relationships you try to have once the thing you once really wanted no longer is what you want anymore
i don’t feel capable of writing long things about books anymore but here is the quote i keep coming back to, as an explanation for things that have happened over the past month
in this short story the main person is a woman called kit who was just served her divorce papers in the mail & then finds out later that her husband was seeing someone else/having an affair but still goes along with her kids and husband for a vacation by the sea because they had booked their tickets ages ago (sam is her kid):There were ways of making things temporarily vanish. One could disappear oneself in movement and repetition. Sam liked only the trampoline and nothing else. There were dolphin rides, but Sam sensed their cruelty. “They speak a language,” he said. “We shouldn’t ride them.”“They look happy,” said Kit. Sam looked at her with seriousness from some sweet beyond.“They look happy so you won’t kill them.”
THE GREAT GATSBY BY F. SCOTT FITZGERALD
can’t remember when i got this book but found it recently amongst some of my other books and decided to read it again. i remember trying to read this when i was fourteen/fifteen and not finishing it because it seemed difficult and inaccessible. it was very easy to read this time around, maybe because i am older now and also because of the font and spacing between the lines. read this last night and finished it at 3am
felt like an easy quick read, not always a consistent flow between the chapters/plot but tightly wound/written anyway
it’s interesting to read this again after having recently watched the film, like when i read a line i think of carrie mulligan / leonardo dicaprio delivering the same line, can’t really read this independent of the designated images or scenes
in that sense i feel like the film did a good job of visually interpreting the film, in terms of the colour and textures, feel like reading this allowed me to understand parts of the film i felt were lacking (?) like where certain things were added or a lack of elaboration re development of characters. i guess the biggest thing i felt when reading this was that the film didn’t quite encapsulate the relationship between nick/the narrator and gatsby, in the book it seemed like nick was fascinated but also disgusted, or mistrustful of gatsby instead of being fully taken in by the wealth/fantasy of his neighbour
i guess the word i was looking for/trying to think of that best describes the texture of the film was the way a sense of the certainty of insincerity slept under the volumes of movement, like no matter how grand or rich the parties were it seemed like they were intensely drunk on an idea of something else; but also it seems like the insincerity here doesn’t lie on a spectrum of true/false, or maybe a lack of self-awareness of the true/false spectrum. it felt like nick was observing a giant puppet show, all of the motions charming but entirely theatrical/everyone saying things that were plainly untrue. or maybe how in the world of this book you can speak in absolute terms and conceive of things having the quality of forever:
"the instant her voice broke off, ceasing to compel my attention, my belief, i felt the basic insincerity of what she had said. it made me uneasy, as though the whole evening had been a trick of some sort to exact a contributory emotion from me. i waited, and sure enough, in a moment she looked at me with an absolute smirk on her lovely face, as if she had asserted her membership in a rather distinguished secret society to which she and tom belonged"
she laughed again, as if she said something very witty, and held my hand for a moment, looking up into my face, promising that there was no one in the world she so much wanted to see. that was a way she had.’
going to look through pages i folded to see which other lines seemed affective to me
"miss baker and i exchanged a short glance consciously devoid of meaning. i was about to speak when she sat up alertly and said ‘sh’ in a warning voice. a subdued impassioned murmur was audible in the room beyond, and miss baker leaned forward unashamed. the murmur trembled on the verge of coherence, sank down, mounted excitedly, and then ceased altogether."
i liked that description of the murmur in the room across from them that they were trying to overhear/understand
"there was dancing now on the canvas in the garden, old men pushing young girls backward in eternal graceless circles, superior couples holding each other tortuously, fashionably, and keeping in the corners—and a great number of single girls dancing individualistically or relieving the orchestra for a moment of the burden of the banjo or the traps. by midnight the hilarity had increased. a celebrated tenor had sung in italian, and a notorious contralto had sung in jazz and between the numbers people were doing ‘stunts’ all over the garden, while happy, vacuous bursts of laughter rose toward the summer sky"
feel like describing nights where around you people are trying to get drunk as “increasing in hilarity” is spot on
also here is the thing jordan says: “and i like large parties. they’re so intimate. at small parties there isn’t any privacy” read this somewhere else and i feel like it’s true, when i think about the parties or things i’ve been to with ben where we’ve been able to hang out together and feel alone, it’s when the party has been large enough to provide distractions for everyone so that you can do your own thing without feeling like you have to participate or engage the larger body. like somehow having a larger party relieves the pressure on your conversation, or maybe provides an alternative, so you feel like you are making a choice by staying with a particular group
"at first i was flattered to go places with her, because she was a golf champion, and everyone knew her name. then it was something more. i wasn’t actually in love, but i felt a sort of tender curiosity. the bored haughty face that she turned to the world concealed something—most affections conceal something eventually, even though they don’t in the beginning, and one day i found what it was."
i didn’t think of this last night, but i realize that “realizing something is being concealed” and one day finding out what that was, is something i’ve thought/felt about two people i know, one of them is a girl i’ve known since i was thirteen and i remember sitting on a curb with her having a conversation and responding to questions she was asking and i guess realizing that she gave the impression that she understood what i was saying, and the impression that she was listening closely, but was kind of just assigning the information i gave her to a set idea/narrative she already had in mind. or that weird sense that you’re finding out something about a person that he/she is trying to conceal, and doesn’t know that you’ve realized that about him/her. like when i stayed over at my friend’s place recently and felt awkward/uncomfortable because she appeared, whether consciously or not, or spoke as though she didn’t care about certain things, but seemed to invest a considerable amount of energy/time to appear the way she did. which is fine, giving a shit or caring about your appearance, but seems like.. i discovered something about her she didn’t want anyone to know, i guess, that’s what made me feel uncomfortable
feel like that feeling was evoked (?) when nick carraway includes the list that gatsby’s dad found in his drawers after gatsby’s death
"practice elocution, poise and how to attain it, no more smokeing and chewing" that spelling mistake, and idk earnest attempt to acquire the movements.. by subjecting yourself to the values of a hierarchy you place yourself within it, and beneath other positions
it seems like the fact that gatsby’s identity was based on an elaborate lie that he chose to create and came to believe himself, or trading on other people’s money (?) seems to extend to the rest of the story, also the fact that “everything” he had done had been for her… trying to become the kind of person she would be with.. buying the place at West Egg in order to be across the water from daisy + the belief that someone would remain in love with you despite having been apart for years.. lends to the vague feeling that something had inflated itself overwhelmingly beyond reality, but sensuously immediate in a way that is easier for you to believe in, like i felt like i wanted to believe in a world in which such absolutes are possible and exist, but at the same time felt, via nick’s descriptions, that it wasn’t real .. “moreover he told it to me at a time of confusion, when i had reached the point of believing everything and nothing about him”
"he hadn’t once ceased looking at daisy, and i think he revalued everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew from her well-loved eyes. sometimes too, he stared around at his possessions in a dazed way, as though in her actual and astounding presence none of it was any longer real. once he nearly toppled down a flight of stairs.
he had passed visibly through two states, entering upon a third. after his embarrassment and his unreasoning joy he was consumed with wonder at her presence. he had been full of the idea so long, dreamed it right through to the end, waited with his teeth set, so to speak, at an inconceivable pitch of intensity. now, in the reaction, he was running down like an over-wound clock.”
"perhaps his presence gave the evening its peculiar quality of oppressiveness — it stands out in my memory from gatsby’s other parties that summer. there were the same people, or at least the same sort of people, the same profusion of champagne, the same many-colour, many-keyed commotion, but i felt an unpleasantness in the air, a pervading harshness that hadn’t been there before. or perhaps i had merely grown used to it, grown to accept west egg as a world complete in itself, with its own standards and its own great figures, second to nothing because it had no consciousness of being so, and now i was looking at it again, through daisy’ eyes. it is invariably saddening to look through new eyes at things upon which you have expended your own powers of adjustment"
"through all he said, even through his appalling sentimentality, i was reminded of something — an elusive rhythm, a fragment of lost words, that i had heard somewhere a long time ago. for a moment a phrase tried to take shape in my mouth and my lips parted like a dumb man’s, as though there was more struggling upon them than a wisp of startled air. but they made no sound, and what i had almost remembered was uncommunicable forever"
me basically all the time
okay i like this description too
"through this twilight universe daisy began to move again with the season; suddenly she was again keeping half a dozen dates a day with half a dozen men, and drowsing asleep at drawn with the beads and chiffon of an evening dress tangled among dying orchids on the floor beside her bed. and all the time something within her was crying for a decision. she wanted her life to be shaped now, immediately — and the decision must be made by some force — of love, of money, of unquestionable practicality — that was close at hand.
that force took shape in the middle of spring with the arrival of tom buchanan. there was a wholesome bulkiness about his person and his position, and daisy was flattered”
tired of typing so i’m going to end here / i like the last line of the book, i remember a lot of opening lines but not so much last lines. fell asleep thinking about this line, i feel like this image/metaphor is very beautiful to me
"so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past"
finished: monday 27th jan 2014
THE DRUNK SONNETS BY DANIEL BAILEY
"WHAT I WANT IS TO KEEP SITTING IN THIS FEELING FOREVER"
it is 10pm on a wednesday and i am eating kimchi and a sweet potato mash with chopsticks and sitting next to rowan. i finished the drunk sonnets in one read, a week ago. i like daniel bailey’s poetry a lot and asked him to do something for galavant two. this isn’t his new book, i think. i had added this to my basket several times but the ‘outside of US’ shipping costs seemed like a barrier. then i decided to get it i guess, along with some other books
going to start writing about the size and feel and texture of each book i read as well… (which is what stace and i did when she came over last week.) i like the soft-texture of the cover, when i drag my fingers across it it feels carpety in a plushy way.. also like the cover art it’s friendly but not too cute.. rowan said it looks like it feels nice and i said try it and she said yup it does. i liked the paper, the font isn’t intrusive it looks like a variation of times new romans i think
it seems like daniel bailey wrote all of these drunk, i guess that is what i am going to assume. i like that when turning to the next page i could consistently expect two things: that the poems would be in capitals and they would have been written when drunk. i liked it when his drunkenness (?) was given context: whether he had been drinking with someone or alone or in his room or outside somewhere else. i felt comforted while reading this—i feel like i am rarely ‘drunk’, whenever i drink i puke or fall asleep, like i get ill before i get drunk (unless i combine drinks with something else/wine + beer). one time though when i was seventeen i remember drinking a lot in a club in singapore and leaving for a bit and looking at people standing outside and walking down to the river. i feel like i remember thinking along a lot of the lines in this book, ok i will type some of these out:
I’M GLAD THAT YOU’RE ALIVE AND DOING WELL
I’D HATE TO LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE YOU DON’T EXIST
I CAN SAY THAT HONESTLY AND I AM GLAD I DON’T
[HAVE TO LIE
IF YOU KNOW ME, AND I THINK YOU DO, YOU KNOW I’M NOT A LIAR
EXCEPT WHEN EVERYTHING GOES WRONG IN LIFE
AND I HAVE TO BACK AWAY FOR A LITTLE WHILE
INTO ANOTHER CORNER OF LIFE WHERE I’LL SAY ANYTHING
TO MAKE YOU BELIEVE IN ME RIGHT NOW
SOMETIMES THE ONLY THINGS THAT WORK OUT ARE MUSCLES
AND I GOT A VERY FEW OF THOSE AND IT HURTS
TO SEE YOU DOING WELL AT ALL
OR TO IMAGINE YOU DOING WELL, BUT YOU ARE
BUT I MAKE IT THROUGH THE DAYS
AND THAT’S OK, I THINK, AT LEAST I CAN DO PUSH UPS
this one is my favourite i think, i feel like i don’t always or especially remember thinking about people i used to like or love when drunk but when that happens it feels like this, “honest”/being real (plus self-pity + wistfulness) and also, i really like lines like ‘the only things that work out are muscles // .. and it hurts to see you doing well at all’
DRUNK SONNET 13
THE ONLY THING THAT COULD MAYBE SAVE US NOW
IS GETTING OLD TOGETHER AND DYING AND THEN NOTHING
I THINK THAT THIS IS THE TIME FOR US
I HAVE WALKED THROUGH OUR CITY AT NIGHT
IT’S HARD TO IMAGINE CHANGING ANYTHING NOW
BUT WHEN I FALL IN LOVE IN THE FUTURE
WILL I EVEN THINK OF YOU OR WHAT? I DON’T KNOW
WILL YOU EVEN BE A PART OF THAT?
HERE ARE SOME THINGS I’VE SEEN TONIGHT
THAT MAKE ME THINK OF YOU OK:
CAT LITTER, THAT WAS THE FIRST
YOUR PICTURE ON THE INTERNET
WHAT ELSE, I DON’T KNOW, SHOULD I QUIT MYSPACE?
SHOULD CATS EVER PISS AGAIN?
feel that way about things now: it’s hard to imagine changing anything now / but when i fall in love in the future / will i even think of you or what i don’t know / will you even be a part of that -> this is so good
DRUNK SONNET 17
I AM NOT STILL THINKING ABOUT YOU, NO
I AM NOT STILL THINKING ABOUT YOU AT ALL
I AM NOT STILL THINKING ABOUT YOU
STILL, I AM NOT AT ALL THINKING ABOUT YOU
NOT THINKING ABOUT YOU, NO I’M NOT
WHAT AM I THINKING ABOUT? NOT YOU
IF I AM THINKING ABOUT ANYTHING, IT’S NOT YOU
YOU ARE NOT A THING I’M THINKING ABOUT
WHAT SHOULD I THINK ABOUT? NOT YOU
WHAT CAN I POSSIBLY THINK ABOUT?
WHAT IS THERE TO THINK ABOUT BUT YOU?
THERE’S PLENTY TO THINK ABOUT IN THIS WORLD
WHAT IN MY LIFE AM I THINKING ABOUT?
I AM NOT THINKING ABOUT YOU, THANK GOD
finally/also i really liked the last part (appendix?) to this book, DRUNK ESSAY, i like it when someone ‘straight up’ tells me what happened (context i guess), small things like walking his dog, i felt [the positive emotion u feel when u relate/identify to something], when he says
I ONLY FEEL LIKE I CAN SPEAK ABOUT WHAT IS
and when he thanks his parents and his brother and other people who have been good to him and good for him. and when he talks about his ‘shitty break up’ but then says later
I AM HAPPY NOW IN THAT I HAVE A BEAUTIFUL RELATIONSHIP GOING ON TWO AND A HALF YEARS AND WE BIRTHED AN AMAZING DOG NAMED ELAINE OUT OF THESE HERE DENVER MOUNTAINS UNDERNEATH THIS HEARTLESS SKY WITH NO WEATHER / FUGGIT MY FRIENDS / I WANT TO SAY THAT I HAVE FOUND IT / BUT I HAVE FOUND NOTHING…. / NOW THAT I AM HAPPY I CAN SEND A BALLOON INTO THE SKY AND LET IT / GREET THE LORD
felt happy for daniel bailey when reading this part, even typing it now/reading it again it felt like, i was in a room with my friends all also drunk and listening to someone standing on the sofa giving a speech. also felt like, i wanted to keep reading the essay bit, kinda wish people blogged more about their day
finished ~15th jan 2014
TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE
hello this is the first post of 2014. here is my pig miso that stacey gave me for christmas. i just updated the list of books i read to include the ones i read in 2013 and i read a paltry thirteen i think, i’m going to try to double that this year. i feel like being busy with university and essay writing isn’t really an excuse, i spent a lot of my free time last year watching really mediocre television i would like to read books instead, i miss it a lot
i decided to bring time traveler’s wife back to london when i came back in september but hadn’t the chance to read it until this weekend. after everyone left i stayed up till 3ish reading this. the last time i read it was when i was sixteen i think, i must have read it for the first time a year or two before that.i remember crying really hard the last time i read the book and i cried a lot this time as well, i like this book a lot
the time traveler’s wife is about a guy named henry who is chronologically displaced, aka he can time travel. i like that the book doesn’t apply the ‘the butterfly effect’ concept to henry’s version of time travel. in this book henry can visit his past selves, and he can also visit his future selves, which makes the concept of causality confusing. while a lot of the book explores henry’s past memories—his childhood, the first time he time-traveled, etc it’s mostly about the relationship he has with clare. clare is a girl who meets henry for the first time when she is four years old, this happens around ~1960/1970 (don’t remember) however, this was when henry was traveling from 2000s. so when they both meet in the present, clare has a whole bunch of memories of being together with and hanging out with henry, that henry does not have, because he has had yet to have experienced them.
when reading this i remembered how nice it was to read really strong voices/read something written from the first person perspective. within chapters the perspectives switch between clare and henry, and so the same event/situation would be told from both perspectives. it’s really nice, sweet. for a long time i’ve felt like, and i still do, to a certain extent, that ideas like ‘true love’ are just constructs that arise out of a desire to make meaning/place narratives of causality onto unrelated events, but lately i’ve felt like i don’t really care either way — whether it is a construct or not, that doesn’t matter. now i am thinking about the criteria for true love and i guess in terms of this story one of that is only wanting one person, maybe. clare grew up having met henry and didn’t want to date anyone else growing up. in one scene - which i vaguely remembered ‘all of a sudden’ - henry, having already married clare in the present, travels back in time to when clare was sixteen, and was beaten/abused by a guy who took her on a date because she didn’t want to have sex with him. 30 something year old henry brings clare to the guy’s place, puts a gun to his head, then ties him up to a tree. that made me cry a lot for several reasons i guess. anyway i was talking about only wanting one person. i feel like that’s the case when you’re with the person, but it’s not so easy to remember feeling that way when you’re apart. i like that clare slept with someone else while she was waiting to meet henry in her present, it seems normal/realistic/but also sad-making maybe. i feel like when i am around ben, in the present, i don’t want anyone else and it feels like he is the only person i want and will ever want. but when he’s not around it’s different, obviously, i feel like i trust the memory/knowledge of what i felt when i was with him, but i don’t always feel that way. i mean, i miss being close to someone, and when i’m away from ben, sometimes it feels like that someone could be a person other than him
i feel like this book has all the elements of suspense/tension/foils — like clare’s best friend charisse and her husband gomez, who is secretly in love with clare. with a lot of books i’ve read recently i’ve not felt surprise, but i did with this book, like each scene is very rich but also adds to the story, and moves the plot along. i felt like the characters were well-developed, there were funny parts and also really sweet and tender parts as well. i really like scenes where clare meeting henry’s family and henry meeting her family. still thinking of some lines, like how henry rationalizes getting a vasectomy by saying it kills him each time he sees her crying and sad after a miscarriage (six times because the foetus time-travels out of the womb).
there are really interesting ideas about age/youth/memories as well, like how, when henry leaves the present in which things aren’t great/he’s always stressed/clare is sad about her mother dying and returns to the past where clare is 18 he feels like being there with her as a youth is a gift, when everything is new and young and she is happy and excited about things to come. is missing that nostalgia? i wouldn’t want to return to being younger but i feel like i’m afraid that with [knowing/experience more] comes more fear/exhaustion.
also i was thinking about how nice it is to revisit a book that you read when you were younger. you can re-experience something you feel nostalgic/have good memories of, which you can’t, re actual memories/the past. so re-reading books is a kind of time travel in itself, i feel
i typed these two parts from the book that i liked for ben over gchat and i’m going to paste them here:
this is when he time travels six years ahead to his future and ends up in his own bedroom, where his future self and clare is sleeping.
"she stirs, her eyes open, she isnt sure where we are. neither am i. i am overwhelmed by desire, by longing to be connected to clare as strongly as possible, to be here now. i kiss her very lightly, lingering, thinking about nothing. she is drunk with sleep and moves her hand to my face and wakes more as she feels the solidarity of me. now she is present; she runs her hand down my arm, a caress"
“i carefully peel the sheet so as not to disturb the other me, of whom clare is still not aware. i wonder if this other self is somehow impervious to waking, but decide not to find out. i am lying on top of clare, covering her completely with my body. i wish i could stop her from turning her head, but she will turn her head any minute now. as i penetrate clare she looks at me and i think i don’t exist and a second later she turns her head and sees me. she cries out, not loudly, and looks back at me, above her, in her. then she remembers, accepts, ‘this is pretty strange but its okay’ and in this moment i love her more than life’
i feel like we love each other like this and i always want to
it makes me remember how much i like and love you and what it feels like being around you
the beginning of the book
HENRY: it’s a routine day in October, sunny and crisp. I’m at work in a small windowless humidity-controlled room on the fourth floor of the Newberry, cataloging a collection of marbled papers that has recently been donated. The papers are beautiful, but cataloging is dull, and I am feeling bored and sorry for myself. In fact, I am feeling old, in the way a twenty-eight-year-old can after staying up half the night drinking overpriced vodka and trying, without success, to win himself back into the good graces of Ingrid Carmichel. leaving the marbled papers in a state of controlled chaos, i walk through the office and past the page’s desk in the reading roo. i am halted by isabelle’s voice saying perhaps mr detamble can help you, by which she means ‘henry you weasel, where are you slinking off to?’ and this astoundingly beautiful amber-haired tall slim girl turns around and looks at me as though i am her personal jesus. my stomach lurches. obviously she knows me, and i don;t know her. lord only knows what i have said, done, promised to this luminous creature, so i am forced to say in my best librarianese, ‘is there something i can help you with?’ the girl sort of breathes ‘henry!’ in this very evocative way that convinces me that at some point in time we have a really amazing time together. this makes it worse that i don’t know anything about her, not even her name. i say, have we met? and isabelle gives me a look that says You asshole. but the girl asys, i’m clare abshire. i knew you when i was a little girl, and invites me out to dinner
feels nice to read this again. felt happy
finished: 11th january 2014
(also i didn’t write about the last book i read, which i read in december (hard truths by lky), idk if i should still try to.. or just move on.. just wanted to say that)
NUMBER9DREAM BY DAVID MITCHELL
bought this book from a bookstore complex in beijing one day when ben was in class all day and i had nothing to do, wandered around the three shelves under the foreign books sign for a long time, a lot of the books were ‘classics’ like jane austen, arthur conan doyle, and there was a full shelf of twilight/hunger game type books. i feel like i probably wouldn’t have picked this book up if i were in a bookstore in london or singapore, but anyway
it’s about a nineteen year old japanese boy who comes to tokyo to look for his dad, a lot of weird absurd things happen when he runs into the yakuza, the head of one of the gangs makes him come along for a ‘day out’ and he says what do we have to do, and the gangster says we’re going bowling and the boy thinks well that seems innocuous enough and when they arrive at the bowling alley he realizes that instead of bowling pins there are people’s heads at the end of the lane, and these people are alive. i liked some parts of the book, i always like it when the object of desire/romantic interest is sassy, or like obviously likes [narrator] too but isn’t obvious about it i guess, like the development of the relationship doesn’t follow what seems to be a normal trajectory. in the end he finds his dad and says
'i feel sad that i found what i searched for, but no longer want what i found' which just seems like, the end-result of a lot of things you want, i guess
this book seemed to resemble, to me, many of the little anime that i have watched, like tekkonkinkreet and kemonozume in the way many wild and erratic things happen all the time, and instead of zooming in/focusing on and developing relationships between characters, the intimate details you’re immediately presented with a very busy picture and it hardly ever pauses, always one element twitching or changing even before you’ve realized it existed and to me it seems difficult to
i feel like this is best explained in pictures:
i am able to appreciate scenes or books like this
but i like things like this instead
the distance i mean, between the lens (be it in a film or in a book) and the subject of observation. i feel like i care about that more than the subject itself
this book was alright i was interested in it enough to finish it, and felt like i hadn’t read an action-driven/clear plot curve type book in a while. some parts seemed sad to me, in a significant way, like the parts about his twin sister, who died when he was really young, when she drowned in the ocean. how often they think about each other and what the other is thinking about / theory of mind type things. feel interested in twins, how they relate to each other in their understanding of themselves; one of my favourite video installations ever was candice breitz’s work on twin identity, which i saw at the singapore biennale in 2011
"all we are is our memories"
another interesting thing about this book is that, while reading it, i thought that it seemed different from other books about japanese societies/books set in japan, this seemed a lot more rushed, hurried along, and i realized later that that difference might be because david mitchell is british/isn’t japanese, and i guess the books i’ve read by japanese authors (four really—yasunari kawabata, murakami, natsuo kirino, ryu murakami) seem a lot quieter, even if there is something urgent happening that requires the narrator/characters to pay immediate attention to, their writing still has a different feel. i feel like maybe this difference might just be david mitchell’s individual style but it seems interesting that where you grew up in might have an effect on the way you frame a story, and that it would resemble in some way the writing of other people who grew up in the same place as you did, and that likewise this would differ from people who grew up in other places from you
finished it on the plane, 22nd september 2013, didn’t have time to write abt this until now :(
THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING BY MILAN KUNDERA
liked reading this book, read it on the plane to beijing and finished it last friday, it was interesting and explores emotional attachment that is more complex than just being in love with a person; felt like the book introduced a lot of absolute binaries that i could understand but did not agree with, felt like it was deterministic (tereza behaves this way because of the way her mother treated her; book states things like ‘it is wrong to deny coincidences’ but ‘right to chide a man for being blind to such coincidences in his daily life, for he thereby deprives his life out of a dimension of beauty, etc) and that a lot of the ‘evidence’ given to substantiate his claims/propositions were weak/merely possessed metaphorical relations; i feel like he doesn’t guard against finding meaning where there is none
typing out quotes:
1) “Now he was standing at the window trying to call that moment to account. What could it have been if not love declaring itself to him? But was it love? The feeling of wanting to die beside her was clearly exaggerated; he had seen her only once before in his life. Was it simply the hysteria of a man who, aware deep down of his inaptitude for love, felt the self-deluding need to simulate it? His unconscious was so cowardly that the best partner he could choose for his little comedy were this miserable provincial waitress with practically no chance at all to enter his life.
He remained annoyed with himself until he realized that not knowing what he really wanted was actually quite natural. We can never know what to want because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come.
There is no means of testing which decision is better because there is no basis for comparison. We live everything as it comes, without warning, like an actor going on cold. And what can life be worth if the first rehearsal for life is life itself?”
2) tomas came to this conclusion: making love with a woman and sleeping with a woman are two separate passions, not merely different but opposite. love does not make itself felt in the desire for copulation (a desire that extends to an infinite number of women) but in the desire for shared sleep (a desire limited to one woman).
3) he paid the bill, left the restaurant, and started walking through the streets, his melancholy growing more and more beautiful. he had spent seven years of his life with tereza, and now he realized that those years were more attractive in retrospect than they were when he was living them.
his love for tereza was beautiful, but it was also tiring: he had constantly had to hide things from her, sham, dissemble, make amends, buck her up, calm her down, give her evidence of his feelings, play the defendant to her jealousy, her suffering, and her dreams, feel guilty, make excuses and apologies, now what was tiring had disappeared and only the beauty remained.
3) marching naked in formation with a group of naked women was for tereza the quintessential image of horror. when she lived at home, her mother forbade her to lock the bathroom door. what she meant by her injunction was: your body is just like all other bodies; you have no right to shame; you have no reason to hide something that exists in millions of identical copies. in her mother’s world all bodies were the same and marched behind one another in formation. since childhood, tereza had seen nudity as a sign of concentration camp uniformity, a sign of humiliation
5) But then she said to herself, Why take pictures of cactuses? She had no desire to go through in Zurich what she’d been through in Prague: battles over job and career, over every picture published. She had never been ambitious out of vanity. All she had ever wanted was to escape from her mother’s world. Yes, she saw it with absolute clarity: no matter how enthusiastic she was about taking pictures, she could just as easily have turned her enthusiasm to any other endeavor.
Photography was nothing but a way of getting at something higher and living beside Tomas.
She said, My husband is a doctor. He can support me. I don’t need to take pictures.
The woman photographer replied, I don’t see how you can give it up after the beautiful work you’ve done.
Yes, the pictures of the invasion were something else again. She had not done them for Tomas. She had done them out of passion. But not passion for photography. She had done them out of passionate hatred. The situation would never recur. And these photographs, which she had made out of passion, were the ones nobody wanted because they were out of date. Only cactuses had perennial appeal. And cactuses were of no interest to her.
She said, You’re too kind, really, but I’d rather stay at home. I don’t need a job.
The woman said, But will you be fulfilled sitting at home?
Tereza said, More fulfilled than by taking pictures of cactuses.
The woman said, Even if you take pictures of cactuses, you’re leading your life. If you live only for your husband, you have no life of your own.
All of a sudden Tereza felt annoyed: My husband is my life, not cactuses.
The woman photographer responded in kind: You mean you think of yourself as happy?
Tereza, still annoyed, said, Of course I’m happy!
The woman said, The only kind of woman who can say that is very … She stopped short.
Tereza finished it for her: … limited. That’s what you mean, isn’t it?
The woman regained control of herself and said, Not limited. Anachronistic.
You’re right, said Tereza wistfully. That’s just what my husband says about me
6) the bowler hat was a motif in the musical composition that was Sabina’s life. It returned again and again, each time with a different meaning, and all the meanings flowed through the bowler hat like water through a riverbed. I might call it Heraclitus’ (“You can’t step twice into the same river”) riverbed: the bowler hat was a bed through which each time Sabina saw another river flow, another semantic river: each time the same object would give rise to a new meaning, though all former meanings would resonate (like an echo, like a parade of echoes) together with the new one. Each new experience would resound, each time enriching the harmony. The reason why Tomas and Sabina were touched by the sight of the bowler hat in a Zurich hotel and made love almost in tears was that its black presence was not merely a reminder of their love games but also a moment of Sabina’s father and of her grandfather, who lived in a century without airplanes and cars.
Now, perhaps, we are in a better position to understand the abyss separating Sabina and Franz: he listened eagerly to the story of her life and she was equally eager to hear the story of his, but although they had a clear understanding of the logical meaning of the words they exchanged, they failed to hear the semantic susurrus of the river flowing through them.
7) she sat transfixed at the edge of the bath, unable to take her eyes off the dying crow. in its solitude and desolation she saw a reflection of her own fate, and she repeated several times to herself, i have no one left in the world but tomas. did her adventure with the engineer teach her that casual sex has nothing to do with love? that it is light, weightless? was she calmer now?
not in the least.
she kept picturing the following scene: she had come out of the toilet and her body was standing in the anteroom naked and spurned. her soul was trembling, terrified, buried in the depths of her bowels. if at that moment the man in the inner room had addressed her soul, she would have burst out crying and fallen into his arms. she imagined what it would have been like if the woman standing in the anteroom had been one of tomas’s mistresses and if the man inside had been tomas. all he would have had to do was say one word, a single word, and the girl would have thrown her arms around him and wept.
tereza knew what happens during the moment love is born: the woman cannot resist the voice calling forth her terrified soul; the man cannot resist the woman whose soul thus responds to his voice. tomas had no defence against the lure of love, and tereza feared for him every minute of every hour.
what weapons did she have at her disposal? none but fidelity. and she offered him that at the very outset, the very first day, as if aware she had nothing more to give, their love was an oddly asymmetrical construction: it was supported in the absolute certainty of her fidelity like a gigantic edifice supported by a single column
8. Of each erotic experience his memory recorded only the steep and narrow path of sexual conquest: the first piece of verbal aggression, the first touch, the first obscenity he said to her and she to him，the minor perversions he could make her acquiesce in and the ones she held out against. All else he excluded（almost pedantically) from his memory. He even forgot where he had first seen one or another woman, if that event occurred before his sexual offensive began.
The young woman smiled dreamily as she went on about the storm，and he looked at her in amazement and something akin to shame：she had experienced something beautiful，and he had failed to experience it with her. The two ways in which their memories reacted to the evening storm sharply delimit love and nonlove.
By the word nonlove I do not wish to imply that he took a cynical attitude to the young woman，that，as present-day parlance has it，he looked upon her as a sex object；on the contrary，he was quite fond of her，valued her character and intelligence, and was willing to come to her aid if ever she needed him. He was not the one who behaved shamefully towards her, it was his memory; for it was his memory that, unbeknown to him, had excluded her from the sphere of love.
The brain appears to possess a special area which we might call poetic memory and which records everything that charms or touches us，that makes our lives beautiful. From the time he met Tereza, no woman had the right to leave the slightest impression on that part of his brain.
Tereza occupied his poetic memory like a despot and exterminated all trace of other women. That was unfair, because the young woman he made love to on the rug during the storm was not a bit less worthy of poetry than Tereza. She shouted, Close your eyes！ Squeeze my hips！ Hold me tight!；she could not stand it that when Tomas made love he kept his eyes open, focused and observant，his body ever so slightly arched above her, never pressing against her skin. She did not want him to study her. She wanted to draw him into the magic stream that may be entered only with closed eyes. The reason she refused to get down on all fours was that in that position their bodies did not touch at all and he could observe her from a distance of several feet. She hated that distance. She wanted to merge with him. That is why, looking him straight in the eye，she insisted she had not had an orgasm even though the rug was fairly dripping with it. It’s not sensual pleasure I’m after, she would say it’s happiness. And pleasure without happiness is not pleasure. In other words, she was pounding on the gate of his poetic memory. But the gate was shut. There was no room for her in his poetic memory. There was room for her only on the rug.
His adventure with Tereza began at the exact point where his adventures with other women left off. It took place on the other side of the imperative that pushed him into conquest after conquest. He had no desire to uncover anything in Tereza. She had come to him uncovered. He had made love to her before he could grab for the imaginary scalpel he used to open the prostrate body of the world. Before he could start wondering what she would be like when they made love, he loved her.
Their love story did not begin until afterward; she fell ill and he was unable to send her home as he had the others. Kneeling by her as she lay sleeping in his bed, he realized that someone had sent her downstream in a bulrush basket. I have said before that metaphors are dangerous. Love begins with a metaphor. Which is to say, love begins at the point when a woman enters her first word into our poetic memory.
THE INTERESTINGS BY MEG WOLITZER
picked this book up at kino a few weeks back, finished it on the second last week of september, haven’t had the time to write about it because i’ve been so busy with the summer internship, in beijing now, only just got my macbook to work
this book ‘revolves’ around the lives of six people, who met at a summer camp for the arts when they were fifteen/sixteen, and follows their lives through adulthood and marriage. the narrative is mostly told from the perspective of jules jacobson, who sees herself as an outsider and an unlikely addition to the other five, who have in their own ways a kind of definition to who they are and what they want that separates them from the rest of the people at the camp, as well as the people that jules grew up with
what i like about this book is how “realistic”/believable the characters are; i was walking somewhere the other day and thinking about this book again and also thinking about what i meant when i say it feels realistic to me: i feel like with other books, when something bad/plot-moving (?) (can’t think of a better word right now) happens, the lives of the characters almost seem to stop or continually revolve around that one thing that happened, almost deterministic in that sense; the author fixates on the consequences of that and all the other normal things that still occur fade into the background; i’ve recently felt that despite the weight of a [thing/situation] that has ended—which still comes back to mind as things in my life that were important enough for the memory of the pain/joy to return/that make me remember a particular period or year—so much more keeps happening, in ways that i could not have imagined. been thinking about the accumulation of pain as well, how even before you might have been done with dealing/coping with one thing other things are also happening, which you might not realize are events that will, reflexively, become periods you yearn for/become part of what you wish didn’t happen. i think that’s becoming more important to me, with regards to books, for it to feel more life-like than fiction/why i feel more drawn towards non-fiction lately, than fiction; although the situations might be fictional, the responses to these situations and ways of coping with it are understandably/arguably how people around me might react or feel.
i feel like the characters in the book understand this as well:
'so where were you?' ash asked.
'oh, ethan figman wanted to show me one of his films. and then we started talking, and it just got—it's hard to explain.'
ash said, ‘that sounds mysterious’.
'no, it was nothing,' said jules. 'i mean it was something, but it was strange.'
'i know what they're like,' ash said.
'what what are like?'
those moments of strangeness. life is full of them,’ said ash.
'what do you mean?'
'well,' said ash, and she got out of her own bed and came to sit beside jules. 'i've always sort of felt that you prepare yourself over the course of your whole life' for the big moments, you know? but when they happen, you sometimes feel totally unready for them, or even that they're not what you thought. and that's what makes them strange. the reality is really different from the fantasy.'
the book begins when jules meets the six of them at the camp: ethan, a guy who from the beginning seems to have the most potential/capacity to pull his interest in animation out of himself and to translate it into real-world success, i guess in a sense ‘commercializing’ his talent, but is also described as being sweaty, unattractive, earnest always in his fifteen-year-old love for jules despite repeated rejection; a pair of siblings from a wealthy family, ash who becomes jules’ best friend, goes to yale, is pretty/talented and is more or less the kind of person who you would assume everything goes right for, her older brother goodman who jules has a crush on; cathy and jonah.
the blurb says: ‘but the kind of creativity that is rewarded at age fifteen is not always enough to propel someone through life at age thirty—not to mention age fifty˘—and not everyone can sustain, in adulthood, what seemed so special in adolescence. for the group of friends who met and joined together because of a shared sense of being ‘interesting’, this is a startling and sometimes painful realization. slowly, one by one, they must consider adjusting their expectations.’
this seems to apply most to jules, who marries someone ‘out of the group’, a person who is regular in his moods/steady, who isn’t drawn to making art and without it, doesn’t feel a hole in his life. ash and ethan get married and ethan becomes wildly successful and rich with his animations taking off in the form of a popular tv series. for jules this is painful, she often compares her life to theirs, and wonders what it would have been like if she had stayed with ethan, instead of acting on the belief that they were incompatible. i felt like this was somewhat unexplained, but not in a way that made it seemed like a flaw of the author in exploring how ethan felt towards her, but i guess because “LIFE IS LIKE THAT”, you never really know how the other person feels once a thing has ended and unless the opportunity arises, it’s left hanging as an unanswered question
the first big thing that pushes the plot forward is that on new years’ eve, while jonah ash ethan and jules are at ash’s parents house, they get a call from the police to say that goodman was arrested, and cathy is accusing him of rape.
when jules goes to see cathy, because ash asked her to:
'it didn't happen the way he says,' cathy said now, jamming the straw into the ice of her tab like a little pickax. 'it happened the way i said. i wouldn't make it up.' she took a bite of her fingernail, and a string became separated, unpeeled.
'i believe you, of course. but i guess i don't think he would make it up either,' said jules.
cathy kiplinger looked across the table. cathy was mature, and jules was a child, the best friend of the beautiful and anguished girl, sent here to do her bidding. ‘why do you think that?’ cathy said, ‘he cheated in school, you know. he looked at another boy’s paper. just ask him. that’s why he had to switch schools. they made him leave.’
'i know all about it,' said jules.
cathy had a distinctly cartilaginous nose; though she wasn’t crying now, her eyes were red rimmed because she had been crying a great deal since New Year’s. ‘honest, jules,’ said cathy. ‘it’s like you don’t know anything. you’re just so goony about him, and about ash, and about good old betsy and gil. you think they all saved you from a boring life. but unlike you, i don’t despise my family. i actually love them.’
'i don't despise my family', jules said meekly, shocked to have been discovered, her voice miserably disappearing into her throat as she spoke.
goodman is released on bail but runs away and disappears from home just before the date of the court trial. ethan steps up to support ash emotionally and that’s when they become a thing (bad summary but i don’t feel like elaborating)
another reason i felt like i liked reading this book is because lately i’ve felt more aware of how, whatever i’m doing/experiencing/feeling is only one year in [the number of years i’ve been alive] and [the number of years i will be alive], which has two main implications i feel, one in giving ‘perspective’ or maybe some kind of hope, whether true or false, that whatever you feel now is just a mood that will pass (which is good because i think one of the worst things you can feel is ‘this is how it will be for always, feeling this bad) but also/secondly, that the choices you make now have long-term consequences/isn’t something limited to a particular scene or story, which is hard to remember ‘in the moment. been more aware of how, while university seems like the biggest thing right now these years are going to be three tiny years of my life in twenty years’ time. i felt this acutely when i was doing my internship and asked to read up the profiles of people in my department, and how those three years are just reduced to one sentence: ‘she did her Bachelors in XXX at XXX and her masters at XXX.’ that made me really sad. i feel like i maybe was never interested in, or able, to see through the fog of school, or be able to imagine myself as one day being past going to college, but i’ve been thinking about post-graduation a lot more lately and i wish i didn’t/wish i was going back for my second year with the same kind of ‘innocence’? naivety. wish i could do stupid dumb things without the weight of knowing that this will end soon
a final thing is that i feel more aware of the fact that the person you are in a relationship with could become more than just ‘the most important person to you’ but also your family. keep remembering that despite my mom and dad having slept in the same bed all of my life, that that was still based on an earlier choice to be together/make a life together. there’s a part of the book that talks about how jules’ and her friends lives begin to divide, after they all get married, how the individual families ‘close rank’ once they have children. already feel aware of this, how time i get to see or hang out with people i like is slowly dissipating, that my time now feels ‘reserved’ for my parents and sister, as well as ben
tired of writing/sleepy, in summary: what’s it like to grow up and acquire different responsibilities and priorities, what it’s like to keep a secret from the person you share a life with; what it’s like to be changed by success and what that does to the relationships around you; how life goes on changing and you can’t stop things from slipping away from you :(
but i really liked this book, felt it was one of the best, if not the best that i’ve read this year, am leaving it in beijing for ben to read when i leave, i would recommend it
finished: 23 august 2013